White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said that President Barack Obama made the same comments to Pope Benedict XVI that he made to Planned Parenthood in 2007 concerning reductions in the numbers of abortions.
In a Monday conversation with CNSNews.com, the news reporter referred to President Obama’s visit to the Vatican, saying “he reportedly told the Pope that he would work to and do all he could to reduce the number of abortions.”
Gibbs then interrupted: “I think he said -- he said that in a speech to Planned Parenthood in 2007, so yes.”
During President Obama’s meeting with Pope Benedict earlier this month, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, the president made a “very explicit” promise to work to reduce the number of abortions.
“The pontiff told me that President Obama affirmed his personal commitment to try to reduce the number of abortions in the United States,” Lombardi remarked, according to Vatican Radio.
Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a July 17, 2007 speech as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Obama criticized the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Gonzales v. Carhart and pledged to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.
He also promoted a “common ground” approach to abortion in the context of promoting contraceptive use.
Speaking about a “moral component” to the prevention of disease and pregnancy, he said parents need to encourage young people to “show reverence towards sexuality and intimacy.”
“But even as we are teaching those lessons, we should never be willing to consign a teenage girl to a lifetime of struggle because of a lack of access to birth control or a lifetime of illness because she doesn’t understand how to protect herself,” he added. “That’s just commonsense. There’s common ground on behalf of commonsense—there we have an opportunity to move forward and agree.”
CNSNews.com also asked Gibbs whether reducing abortions would mean supporting an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would prohibit federal funds going to abortion.
Gibbs responded by saying that he had not seen the Hatch amendment. He said the president believes current policy for Medicaid such as the Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding for abortions.
In the Obama administration’s view, Gibbs said, a medical benefit package is “better left to experts in the medical field to determine how best and what procedures to cover.”
On Fox News Sunday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said abortion funding would end up being “part of the debate” about the final health care bill.